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Salary History Questions

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In light of the #MeToo movement, many employment policies are being revisited and reformed in order to fix the gender pay gap, which refers to the different and unequal pay men and women receive, as a work discrimination lawyer can explain. One of the issues therein includes salary history questions, which are questions that get at how much someone has been, or is being, paid. However, critics say this functions as a proxy for gender and sex, given the fact that salary is one site where there is major inequity between men and women. Some laws, as Connecticut just enacted, regulate what employees can ask about from other employees, in terms of their wages. In other words, it prohibits employers blocking employees from seeing how their wage stacks up against other employees, which would be a starting point for alleging discrimination based on gender or sex in originally determining those wages.

Connecticut has now become the latest state to enact legislation that demands employers be attentive to pay equity. The legislation is called “An Act Concerning Pay Equity” (“the Act”), and is the latest legislation that aims to affect how salary history is implicated in the workplace. Other states include California, Delaware, and Vermont, and many cities, like New York City and San Francisco.

Specifically, the Act makes it illegal for employers to stop employees from speaking about their wage information with other employees or inquiring about what other employees make. It further prohibits employers from requiring employees to sign a waiver that stops them from disclosing the amount of their wages to other employees or inquiring about the wages of other employees. Finally, an employee cannot be fired, disciplined or discriminated against just because they inquire about the wage of another employee. Employers are still allowed to ask prospective employees about compensation structure. However, they cannot ask the employee about specific parts of their compensation. An employee can still voluntarily give the employer this information. In sum, this is designed to protect workers if and when they want to know how much others around them are making.

If the law is violated, an employee can bring suit in court. In terms of remedies, employers found to have violated the law may be liable for compensatory damages as well as punitive damages. The new law in Connecticut will take effect on January 1, 2019. Both employees and employers in Connecticut should be aware of the changes in law and adapt new practices to ensure compliance and, were necessary for employees, challenge employers for violating the law.

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